Update May 2009: New pennies, nickels, and quarters have elevated couch-diving for dinero from a business plan to a favorite recession recreation. Remember: change is good.
When I've been broke in the past and in need of quick cash, the first place I naturally look is in my own home. Drawing on my experience, here are some tips to uncover the hidden cash lurking in your home.
Everyone's living quarters are different, of course, but there's a certain (rather obvious at first) list that everyone should go through first.
Your bed stand. Don't most of us have a little spot where we put money, after we toss off our clothes at the end of the day? But, sure, there's probably nothing there, because you've already raided this.
Hone in on your home office. Have one? It seems like another natural place where you might have stuffed a few bills or coins aside at one point.
Survey your sofa. Underneath those cushions, where pocket change slides out and drops into the crevasses of your couch, is often, quite literally, a gold mine. And possibly half of a melted Hershey's bar. You really do need to get down here more often.
Linger in your laundry room. Another favorite place of wayward dollars and cents. Chances are you, a spouse or some other significant other, has taken some money from the pockets and put some money aside. Or maybe a quarter or wadded up dollar is in the machine right now, like a mob of people at an American Idol audition waiting to be discovered.
Check the car. Most of us have a little spot in the car where rogue coins wind up, when we don't have time to put them in a pocket or purse. They sometimes wind up under the car seats. You probably have something here.
Now it gets harder. But there are still places to look.
Outside the car. You looked inside, but what about outside? There may be a dime or a nickel or a penny lying around, that fell out one evening when you were leaving your vehicle. Of course, a $5 bill may have fluttered out on the ground, too, but that's long gone, and if that's the type of spare money you're losing, no wonder you're broke.
If you have a metal detector... take a quick look around the yard. In that off-chance that you have one, you may locate a few coins. OK, now get back inside. We've really just begun.
The junk drawer. Everyone has one. I guarantee you have a few coins in here, unless you raided this recently. And again, perfect time to clean this out.
The kitchen. Chances are, your junk drawer is in here, or your jar of coins, which you've already thought of or taken from, but what about looking underneath or behind the refrigerator? Can anything fit under the oven? You can clean these behind or underneath these appliances and possibly find some money at the same time. And while you're here, what are you using this spare money for? Groceries? Then, of course, rifle through the coupons. That's money right there, or a way to make the money you do find go farther.
Your bedroom closet and laundry hamper. Go through the pockets of the clothes, clean and dirty. Some money has to be in there somewhere.
The garage, basement and attic are all rooms to consider if you have them, but if you don't wander in there much... well, it's your call.
And finally... if you have children, you know that their bedrooms are always a mess, and that you really should clean them, and gee, if you would stumble upon some coins under their bed or on the floor, or... their piggy bank, where you know their allowance is stashed up, or perhaps that $40 that Aunt Martha gave them for their birthday.
Of course, if you're at this point, let's give up the pretense of cleaning. You're going in on a search and destroy mission. Also, it should be said that I'm honestly not endorsing the act of taking your money from your 12-year-old without asking, although I suppose if you need cash for groceries, the electric bill or something important that will help your child if the money is spent, all is fair in love and war, and that sort of thing. Still, it seems like this is a time to talk to your son or daughter first and work something out.
But if your child is really young, let's say, two or four, and wouldn't notice...? Well, look at it this way. You need the money. You're a family. You're all in this together. And while it may seem humiliating rifling through the piggy bank of your four-year-old, it is -- but only if you get caught.
Bottom Line: Do it now. What do you have to lose?
Geoff Williams has periodically done the starving, broke writer thing during the last 12 years of full-time freelance writing, and is the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).